Art of Our Appalachian Woods Exhibition

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Dairy Barn Arts Center Displays Appalachian Wood Creations

A beautiful Pod Box construdted of Black Walnut and Sugar Maple made by Gerald Meyer of Millfield, Ohio.

An exhibition showcasing the creativity of 41 artists and artisans who work with wood found in the Appalachian Region opened at The Dairy Barn Arts Center in Athens, Ohio, on June 29 and will continue through September 3, 2018.

Art of Our Appalachian Woods includes 101 works of art created with materials sourced from local woods. The pieces range from simple to intricate, functional to whimsical, and include furniture, boats, musical instruments, sculptures and much more.

There was a large turnout for the "Art of Our Appalachian Woods" show at the Dairy Barn Arts Center in Athens, Ohio.

An opening reception for the exhibit, which is a tribute to the Appalachian heritage, was held on June 29 in a festive atmosphere offering food, beverages and live entertainment. Attendees had an opportunity to meet many of the exhibiting artists

According to the 1965 federal legislation that created the Appalachian Region, it is a 205,000 square-mile area that follows the spine of the Appalachian Mountains from southern New York to northern Mississippi. It includes all of West Virginia and parts of 12 other states: Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia.

In selecting pieces for this juried show, The Dairy Barn Arts Center committee considered art, beauty, diversity, craftsmanship and design, along with the wood used to make the pieces.

A Whitehall Rowboat made of Cedar on Oak by David Callahan of Millfield, Ohio.

Repeat Appearance

Dave Callahan’s Whitehall Rowboat could be considered one the centerpieces of Art of Our Appalachian Woods. The Millfield, Ohio, resident built the boat mostly by himself, with a little help from friends, back in 1998. Based on the classic Whitehall design and made from Cedar on Oak, Callahan’s boat was actually part of an art show at The Dairy Barn when it was first built. Callahan was asked to bring it back for this show, since it was made from local wood. He cleaned it up, and the boat is now enjoying a second show.

Callahan is still using the boat ... a lot! He estimates that he has rowed and sailed the boat somewhere between 4-5,000 nautical miles, and it is still strong and seaworthy. He has used that boat all up and down the Atlantic coast, Great Lakes, Ohio River and a million lakes in between. Callahan is retired now, but when he was working as an architect, he said he always took the boat with him wherever he went.

Although the boat was built for rowing, it is also set up with leeboards for sailing. It can carry full gear, including a tent, anchors, rods, nets, coffeemaker, clam rakes, flotation devices, and of course, some friends.

“Touched” made of Hard Maple by Betty J. Scarpino, Indianapolis, Indiana, “Untitled” (Acrylic on Basswood) by Michael Van Auken of Shade, Ohio, Taylor Pallet Guitar by Bob Taylor of El Cajon, California and “Rocket” made of Reed & Seagrass by Elizabeth Runyon of Oxford, Ohio.

Exhibition Sponsors

Six area businesses and organizations are sponsoring Art of Our Appalachian Woods: the Athens County Convention and Visitors Bureau, Ohio Forestry Association, Southeast Ohio Woodturners, Stewart-MacDonald, Rural Action, and Woodcraft Supply. Their support makes the exhibition possible.

Formerly an actual dairy barn, this historic structure now proudly serves as the Dairy Barn Arts Center.

About The Dairy Barn Arts Center

Formerly a fully functioning dairy barn for the Athens, Ohio, asylum, the barn was built in 1914. It fell into disrepair but was saved from demolition in 1977 by the Hocking Valley Arts Council. The Dairy Barn Arts Center was established as a nonprofit corporation a year later and held its first art exhibition in 1979.

Part of the Dairy Barn Arts Center's mission is to offer exhibitions, events and educational programs to nurture and promote area artists and artisans, develop art appreciation among all ages, provide the community with access to fine arts and crafts from outside the region, and to draw attention and visitors to Southeastern Ohio.

Importance of this Exhibition

The Appalachian Forest is home to 140 species of trees and is known around the world for its quality hardwoods. Wood that was once necessary for survival is now a treasured medium for creative artists and artisans to express themselves.

There’s something special about using wood from the Appalachian Region to create works of art. The wood has a significant meaning to those who work with it. They connect with it and appreciate it. Wood is timeless, and this exhibition helps to promote a future where wood from the Appalachian Forest is never forgotten.

Spice Cabinet made of Walnut, Poplar, Holly, Bloodwood and Yellowheart by Chris Hedges of Athens, Ohio and “Sunset/Moonrise on the Ridge” made of Poplar, Maple, Oak Fiber, Reactive Dyes and Acrylic Paint by Randal Fields of Amesville, Ohio.

Attendees’ Comments

“I’m very excited to see the variety of work we have here,” said Holly Ittel, Quilt National and Exhibitions Director at The Dairy Barn Arts Center. “It’s so fun to see the furniture, sculptures, woodcarvings and turnings.”

“This show is about the wood,” stressed Ittel. “Every piece has at least 50% Appalachian wood, except for one project that was made from reed. Making things from wood is a traditional craft, it’s really important, and it is fun for people to see.”

“This show is fantastic. I really enjoy wood, and I’m blown away,” said Jon McMichael of Athens. “I’m going to take my time and walk around and soak it in. I like the variety of entries. It goes from things that are really simple, but beautiful, to other things that don’t have a function but are beautiful objects. This should be a popular show!”

“This show is very unique,” commented Jerill Vance of the Appalachian Heritage Woodshop, who came to check out the show. Vance believes that exhibitions like this stimulate interest in the artisans, their work and also in woodworking in general, making it a win-win situation.

Artists’ Responses

Spirit Williams of Rockbridge, Ohio stands next to “Lady of the Forest” that she carved out of Butternut.

Spirit Williams: “This show is wonderful,” said Spirit Williams of Rockbridge, Ohio, who has been carving now for 50 years.

Spirit loves to carve. As soon as people started wanting to buy her carvings, she quit her job. Today, Williams has an art gallery in Rockbridge, and she does a few shows each year. She works mostly on commissions, often for churches, and she does a lot of architectural projects like doors and mantels.

“I like working with wood because it’s alive. If you work with it, sometimes you get 200%, what you do plus what the wood does,” shared Williams. “I use all kinds of local wood. Ohio is a wood exporting state. I especially like Ohio Cherry and Butternut.”

Stephen Kropf of Athens, Ohio with some of the furniture that he has created.

Stephen Kropf: “I’ve been making furniture for 40 years,” said Stephen Kropf from Athens, who is also on the board and the events committee at The Dairy Barn Arts Center.

When Kropf was younger, he worked as a finish carpenter but eventually switched to making furniture. His work in this show was mostly made from Athens County wood.

“I love wood as a material, and I like making furniture one piece at a time, working at my own pace. It’s a pretty luxurious way to make a living,” admitted Kropf. “I kind of design as I go, and that’s the most interesting thing to me ... working the design out as I go.”

John Ittel of College Corner, Ohio exhibited Nesting Bowls with Lids made of Walnut & Cherry.

John Ittel: John Ittel of College Corner, Ohio, displayed a series of beautifully turned bowls in the show.

“I’ve been a woodworker for 10 to 15 years,” shared Ittel, a retired farmer. “Turning is my favorite. In the past 10 years, I’ve probably made 50-60 bowls.”

Ittel’s bowls are made of White Oak, with a Walnut top. He gets the wood right off his property. His neighbor has a saw mill, so they have a ready supply of wood.

Curly Ash Hand Plane made of Curly Ash and Ebony by Jay Hostetler of Athens, Ohio, a Dining/Conference Table made of American Chestnut by Jerry Ittel of Waynesville, Ohio and First Journey” made of Ash, Dye, Liming Wax and Bleach by Betty J. Scarpino of Indianapolis, Indiana.

Enjoy our video collage from our visit to the Dairy Barn event.

Check Out the Exhibition

If you have the opportunity, visit the Art of Our Appalachian Woods show at the Dairy Barn in Athens, Ohio. The event runs through 9/3/18. Check out the Dairy Barn Arts Center for future shows.

Doug Loyer


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